THE GIG: Mumford & Sons
WHERE: The Sound Academy, Toronto, ON
WHEN: 13 November 2010
IN ONE WORD: Overcrowded
Mumford & Sons, the four-piece folk rock behemoth from Blighty, danced against the lights on stage while playing to a rumbustious crowd. Adoring girls screamed and swooned while boys whooped and hollared, as people got drunk and happy and groups of friends made new friends as they linked arms over shoulders to jump together in support of the band with a name like a family-owned hardware store. Or at least, the lucky ones did… those inside the magical happy square of floor-space at Sound Academy where you can actually see and hear everything.
I get it.
Recently, whenever I’ve posted a review on a show at Sound Academy, there have been comments or emails from fans at the show who were pissed off because they did not have a great concert experience: see here or here. So – without taking anything away from Mumford and Sons, whose performance lived up to the previous reports I’d heard – let’s talk about the issue.
At this concert, more than any other I’ve ever attended at this venue, I came to realize exactly why so many of Toronto’s concert-going faithful love to loathe the Sound Academy. Yes, the location (down by the docks), is not convenient – though the view across the waterfront of the city skyline often makes up for it, in my opinion – and there are other issues with Sound Academy, like the airport-level security at the entrance and the ridiculously long queue that they create. But the main gripe people have against the Sound Academy is the fact that the venue layout, essentially a rectangle but with the stage at the narrow end, is so ill-conceived that hundreds of fans find themselves squeezed out into the overflow edges at the side and back of the venue where both the sight and sound of the performance is greatly diminished. If you’re not in the aforementioned “Magical Happy Place”, TM, as so lovingly an yet ineptly illustrated below by yours truly, then your concert experience is severly diminished – unless you’re masking your emotions with overpriced beer.
This show was so overcrowded that at one point I found myself in the middle of a human traffic jam at the bottleneck between the left-side bar and the edge of the fenced area where the mixing console is set-up: a girl behind me screamed, “What’s the hold up?! If I don’t get to the washroom in a minute I’m going to piss myself right here!” Spurned on by the complaints of the girl with the bladder control of a toddler, I somehow managed to cut a line through the immovable chunks of people. I reached the relative safety of less-populated space in the spill-over area left of the stage, towards the exit, and sighed with relief of regaining some of my personal space back. I would later find myself again in this area near the exit doors as, after photographing the band, I joined a couple hundred people in the same ‘vantage spot’, I watched just over half of Mumford and Sons set before getting bored of hearing the poor spill-through sound and seeing the band on stage from a two-dimensional, side-on view.
As a member of the press, I am one of those lucky buggers who get’s stage-side access for a few songs as I photograph the band, so I get to experience concerts from the up-close-and-personal viewpoint. But for the rest of the show, I’m in the crowd like everyone else. It’s not a sudden realization that Sound Academy has it’s faults, but at this show, as I stood looking on I felt so distant from the show that it was not a fun experience; or anything like a concert experience should be. So, for those of you have wrote and commented in the past about your misgivings of the Sound Academy; consider the issue publicly addressed. This is no reflection on the actual staff at Sound Academy, who I always find professional and courteous, but I will agree wholeheartedly with the voices of Toronto’s gig-going masses that things could be a lot better. Sooner or later, surely some kind of revamp must be made to this venue, but for now my only advice will be to make sure you arrive early enough to find yourself in my now trademarked Magical Happy Place.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Pictures of Mumford and Sons at Sound Academy: